Posts Tagged ‘voladores’

Dance of the Flyers AKA Voladores ‘Flying Men’

Today in celebration of Cinco De Mayo, we bring you an excerpt of the Mexican Jesuit Francesco Saverio Clavigero’s book, The history of Mexico. Collected from Spanish and Mexican historians, from manuscripts and ancient paintings of the Indians. Illustrated by Charts and other copper plates. To which are added, critical dissertations on the land, the animals, and inhabitants of Mexico.

This book is available for research M-F 9-4:30 and is part of our Archives & Special Collections as well as available electronically as part of the Internet Archive.

I chose to highlight pages 402 through 404 from Volume 1 that give a description of the mesoamerican ritual called the Dance of the Flyers AKA Pole Flying AKA Ceremony of the Voladores (Flying Men). The reason I chose to highlight this section is because I had the opportunity to see a performance of this ritual recently outside of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

This dance has been awarded a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity distinction and is described as follows on their website:

“The ritual ceremony of the Voladores (‘flying men’) is a fertility dance performed by several ethnic groups in Mexico and Central America, especially the Totonac people in the eastern state of Veracruz, to express respect for and harmony with the natural and spiritual worlds. During the ceremony, four young men climb a wooden pole eighteen to forty metres high, freshly cut from the forest with the forgiveness of the mountain god. A fifth man, the Caporal, stands on a platform atop the pole, takes up his flute and small drum and plays songs dedicated to the sun, the four winds and each of the cardinal directions. After this invocation, the others fling themselves off the platform ‘into the void’. Tied to the platform with long ropes, they hang from it as it spins, twirling to mimic the motions of flight and gradually lowering themselves to the ground. Every variant of the dance brings to life the myth of the birth of the universe, so that the ritual ceremony of the Voladores expresses the worldview and values of the community, facilitates communication with the gods and invites prosperity. For the dancers themselves and the many others who participate in the spirituality of the ritual as observers, it encourages pride in and respect for one’s cultural heritage and identity.”

Here is part of Clavigero’s description of the ritual:

File_002

And the copper plate illustration of the ritual that faces page 4o2:

File_003

As an added bonus, here is a short video I shot on my phone while experiencing the performance in February: